Karen Simpson steps down at Theatre Royal after life changing illness
PUBLISHED: 15:53 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:53 02 December 2019
Karen Simpson, CEO and artistic director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, the person who was instrumental in turning round the fortunes of the Georgian theatre, has announced she is stepping down following an incurable cancer diagnosis.
She says that having lived with the illness for two-and-a-half years she now wants to spend more time with friends and family. Peter Pan, this year's pantomime, will be her last production.
The theatre is now entering a period of transistion while they search for a replacement. Karen will be keeping in touch with theatre operations until she officially steps down in February 2020.
When Karen joined, alongside Adrian Grady (general manager) in 2013, Theatre Royal was in danger of closure with significant financial difficulties. It was clear that the theatre needed to reconnect with the community it serves and redefine its business model. Karen's vision was to create a theatre for everyone and steer a new and more sustainable business model. In Karen's own words she "leaves the organisation knowing that that is exactly what is being achieved".
She said: "I would like to say thank you to everyone for welcoming me to the region and making this experience such a rewarding one. The support I have received from the board, staff, volunteers and the general public has been overwhelming and enabled me to continue to work through much of this period."
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Theatre Royal audiences have grown year on year, with a varied programme on stage. In addition to putting the theatre back into sustainable financial position, Karen's own achievements at Theatre Royal include: directing the annual pantomime which has become so much part of local family life and producing work that reaches directly into schools and communities.
This year has been Theatre Royal's 200th Anniversary and Karen wanted to celebrate its remarkable heritage and create a real legacy for the future.
Speaking of personal highlights, she said: "Having the honor to direct Roy Hudd in Theatre Royal's near sell out production of 'Goodnight Mister Tom' in 2018 was something I feel immense pride in. I also wanted to create a real legacy for the future. I'm immensely proud of what we have achieved at Theatre Royal and know that I leave the theatre in a good place for future generations to enjoy."
Roger Quince, Chairman of Theatre Royal Board said, "Karen has made a stunning contribution in her six and a half years with the theatre. As artistic director she has greatly broadened our programme and brought in new audiences, in particular young families, and increased the number and quality of our own productions.
"As CEO, very ably supported by Adrian, she has put Theatre Royal on a stable financial footing, and built a strong team, making us more resilient. Her clear direction, passion and ability to bring others along have inspired us all. Karen will be hugely missed, not least by me".
Adrian Grady, who has been covering for Karen, continues as General Manager/Interim CEO aided by Marcus Romer as interim Artistic Director. Adrian will work closely with Roger Quince and the other Board Members to recruit a successor who shares the same passion for Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds as Karen.